Friday, October 30, 2015

Huge week for transport reform in Canberra - Light Rail, Buses and Uber

Chief Minister Andrew Barr steps out of an Uber car
In the space of one week the Labor Greens Government has successfully laid down massive transformative changes in Canberra's public transport. Outside of an election campaign, there has never been this amount of change in public transport in Canberra before. It is very positive. 

The changes the ACT Government has announced this week:
These changes are far reaching and will radically transform Canberra's public transport from a bus and taxi solution to a truly integrated public transport system with Capital Metro light rail at its backbone, supported by buses, taxis and Uber ridesharing. This will take the city a long way towards achieving the increase in public transport use figures that the Government are aiming for in the Transport for Canberra 2031 target.

These changes provide us all with better options and choices - and make driving one person in one car to a parking space and leaving it there all day, no longer the first choice. 

The Uber agreement is an acknowledgement that disruptive technologies can be embraced instead of rejected. Other jurisdictions have  implemented regulations in an attempt to stop Uber ridesharing and preserve taxi monopolies. 

Often this action has arisen as a result of pressure on legislators from taxi license holders. Taxi licenses are often artificially limited, creating a market in licenses. Many people invest in licenses as the license value has historically increased. This is not a good outcome. The intent should be to provide enough taxis to meet demand, not limit taxi licenses to preserve taxi license value.

iPhones, iPhone apps and the Uber business model have led to a rise in ridesharing. it is almost impossible for governments to ban Uber and similar services like On Tap. The ACT Government has negotiated with Uber and reached an agreement. 

Canberra is the first capital city in the world where Uber and the local authority have reached an agreement before Uber has commenced operations.

The agreement is light touch regulation, it primarily means that Uber drivers in Canberra will have to undergo background checks, including criminal history checks. This satisfies public safety concerns.

Associated with the Uber agreement is a recognition that the existing taxi industry needs to adapt. The Government in an attempt to support evolution of an existing industry to meet the challenges of a new industry, will change taxi license fee regulations so that taxi license fees are halved from 20 thousand dollars a year to 10 thousand dollars a year and next year to 5 thousand dollars a year.

The Canberra Liberals are yet to announce any public transport policy, aside from cancelling light rail contracts (described as economic lunacy by the Federal Liberal government). 

The Chief Ministers press release:

Today the ACT became the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce regulated ridesharing.

From midnight tonight, Canberrans can access a new form of safe, flexible and alternative on-demand transport.

Ridesharing in the ACT will allow drivers to carry passengers through services such as Uber.

This will improve travel options for Canberrans, reduce fares for the community through competition, and drive further innovation in the demand responsive transport industry.

I recently meet with senior executives from Uber in San Francisco who welcomed the responsiveness of the ACT Government to ensure their arrival in the capital.

These are world leading reforms which highlight the ability of the ACT Government to design reforms that can become a platform for other governments around the world to follow.

As announced on 30 September 2015, rideshare and third party taxi booking services can now begin operation under strict conditions and oversight by Access Canberra.

These arrangements will ensure public safety with appropriate criminal and driving history checks, the requirement of roadworthy vehicles, and specific CTP and third party property insurance coverage in place.

To ensure a level playing field for existing taxis and hire cars, the ACT Government has introduced immediate changes to significantly reduce a range of fees and charges including:

· a $10,000 per year reduction in the fee to lease a Government-owned taxi licence;

· a reduction in the annual hire car licence lease fees, from $4,600 to $100; and

· the elimination of the $350 annual taxi and hire car operator accreditation fee.

Taxis will retain their exclusive role in providing rank and hail service to passengers in the community and the provision of wheelchair accessible taxi services.

The Minister assisting the Chief Minister on Transport Reform, Shane Rattenbury, said that taxi industry reform is part of broader government improvements to the public transport system in the ACT, with benefits to the economy, the community and the environment.

For more information on the Taxi Industry Innovation Reforms and to view the On-demand public transport reform document, economic modelling by the Centre for International Economics and public submissions received as part of the community consultation, please visit:

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

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